Not nearly as much on line in this meeting between Rams, Seahawks

Sunday, November 20, 2011
Browns quarterback Colt McCoy throws under pressure from Rams defensive lineman Chris Long during the first quarter last week in Cleveland. (MARK DUNCAN ~ Associated Press)

The Rams face Seattle for the first time since playing for the NFC West title last season

ST. LOUIS -- Chris Long wanted to play his best when the St. Louis Rams played the Seattle Seahawks for the NFC West title last January. No regrets, no what ifs.

Long was motivated, not haunted, after the loss.

"I'm not that type," Long said. "Some people say, 'Well, you should be that type.' That's why I try to play really hard, so those things I can leave them on the field."

Set to face the Seahawks for the first time since, that philosophy still applies for a player who's developed into one of the NFL's top pass rushers. Although for a much different reason.

Rams outside linebacker Ben Leber, right, recovers a fumble by Browns receiver Joshua Cribbs on a punt return during the fourth quarter last week in Cleveland. (TONY DEJAK ~ Associated Press)

Both teams are having a stinker of a season.

Seattle (3-6) vs. St. Louis (2-7) long ago was slotted for a late afternoon marquee start. Their total of five wins instead is the lowest among this week's matchups.

There's only so much any player can do about that.

Long's play has been a key to the Rams' surge, most of it on defense, over the last few games. St. Louis finally bears some resemblance to the team that made a six-victory improvement in Year 2 under coach Steve Spagnuolo, although it's too late to save a season long gone sour.

The Rams have two wins and an overtime loss since getting manhandled by the Packers and Cowboys by a combined 58-10. Long got three sacks in an upset over the Saints and is among the league leaders with eight. He's blossomed as a force against the run, too, in his fourth season since being taken with the second overall pick in the 2008 draft.

The son of hall of famer Howie Long is a virtual lock for his first double-digit sack season with seven games to go.

"I don't know what I'd have to do to validate that. I got picked pretty high and I get paid a lot of money," Long said. "I think I'd have to have about 20 sacks a year to validate that.

"I just try to be the best player I can be, maximize what I can do."

Long has plenty of experience playing in games that aren't crucial, leaving the field a winner in just 12 of 57 chances. This week is another opportunity.

"It doesn't matter what your record is, there should be the exact same plan every Sunday," Long said. "To me, it's a competition. And the beautiful thing about it, it doesn't matter where you are in the standings. Your pride's on the line every Sunday."

The Seahawks lost three of four to start the year then dropped three of four again. They showed surprising life last week with a 22-17 upset of the Ravens, but they are four games behind the 49ers in the West.

Time for a little commiserating from Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, whose team also has been ravaged by injuries. Carroll referenced the Rams' brutal early schedule and the Cardinals' also-ran status.

Carroll thinks the Seahawks are a better team than last year's 7-9 division champs, just a bit young. Nearly half of the roster is in its first season with the franchise.

"I think we've all started slowly, other than the Niners who got off to a racehorse start, and we didn't," Carroll said. "So we'll see what happens. There's a lot of ball left, a lot of games out there."

Maybe, if they can keep playing like last week, when they capitalized on three turnovers and Marshawn Lynch's second consecutive 100-yard rushing game to beat their second division leader. Lynch had four big runs and a first-down catch in the drive that ran out the final 5:52 besides scoring Seattle's lone TD.

"That's pretty much the way you see the game being won, running out the clock being up like that," Lynch said. "It just so happened it was against the Ravens. That one is done. Now we have to get ready for this one."

Lynch has consecutive 100-yard games for the first time in his career, a big boost for a run game ranked near the bottom of the NFL.

"He has a nasty stiff-arm and he's explosive," Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. "He's looking to score every carry."

And he's about to go up against the NFL's worst team against the run, although the Rams have held two of the last three opponents to less than 100 yards.

The Rams' Steven Jackson can do Lynch one better. The 240-pound Jackson, who still is bowling over tacklers in his eighth season, has stepped up in an effort to prevent the season from total collapse.

Jackson has three consecutive 100-yard games.

"Steven Jackson is roaring," Carroll said.

Jackson is ninth in the NFL with 707 yards rushing and a 5.1-yard average, the best of his career, despite missing most of three games.

"Jack means everything to our offense," Rams quarterback Sam Bradford said. "When Jack gets rolling, it just makes everything a lot easier for us. "

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